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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Tigers' McCann getting increased PT again with Avila at first base
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:05 pm ET) Tigers catcher James McCann drew back-to-back starts Saturday and Sunday against the Blue Jays after Alex Avila started in his first game off the disabled list Friday. Avila started at first base the last two games after Miguel Cabrera went on the disabled list.

McCann went 1 for 4 with a triple, one RBI and one strikeout Saturday before going 2 for 3 with one run, one RBI and one walk Sunday. 

He has now hit safely in five straight games, batting .476 (10 for 21) with one double, one triple, two home runs, five RBI, five runs, one walk and three strikeouts.


Nationals C Wilson Ramos dedicates homer to daughter
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos didn't just blast off for his team Sunday night. His solo home run was a sort-of birthday present for his daughter.

"Soon as I hit the ball, I felt in my bat that ball is gone," he told masnsports.com. "...It made me feel good for this day I hit well. Especially this day, because my daughter have 11 months today. I did today for her. It made me really happy today."

It didn't exactly make Matt Williams sad. He was impressed not just by the home run, but by Ramos' RBI single in the eighth.

"That's vintage Wilson," Williams said. "Man on third, line drive back through the middle. He's got the ability to do that. That's why he hits in the middle of the order, because he's an RBI guy. He's a run producer. He stayed on a first-pitch slider and delivered."

Ramos is on a bit of a roll with five hits in his last 12 at-bats to sweeten his slash line to .266/.294/.411.


Mets SS Ruben Tejada ties season high with three hits
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:58 am ET) Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada tied a season high with three hits during an 8-0 win Sunday against the Dodgers. He has totaled three hits three times this season.

Tejada had singles in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings. He drove in a run with his single in the seventh.

Tejada, who had two runs and one strikeout Sunday, has multiple hits in two of his last three games. 

Since May 29, he is batting .252 with 10 doubles, nine RBI, 10 runs, eight walks, 24 strikeouts and one stolen base in 31 games.


Indians C Yan Gomes finally finding comfort level at plate
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) A knee injury and the struggle to find his stroke has pretty much cost Indians catcher Yan Gomes half a season. But he's finally showing signs of life.

Gomes is batting .333 (7-for-21) in his last five games to end a 4-for-37 slide. PITCHf/x reports that he has slammed seven balls with exit velocities of at least 100 mph since June 16 after managing zero before the injury that knocked him out for six weeks. He is simply trying to grind his way through it.

"This game is so frustrating and so hard," Gomes told MLB.com. "And the more and more I think about looking at the board and seeing if I'm getting there, or if I'm going to get talks from you guys where I'm struggling or something, it's just some stuff that I can't even worry about.

"It comes down to good at-bats or hard outs or bloopers - whatever. It's going to work out the way it's supposed to work out. From my career, I know I'm a good hitter. I know things are going to turn out."

Gomes added that he's feeling better at the plate.

"You've just got to take it and know it's a good sign," he said. "I'm seeing the ball well."


A's OF Sam Fuld connects for first homer in 2-1 loss
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Athletics outfielder Sam Fuld started for the first time in five games and just the second time in the last seven games Sunday against the Mariners. He did his best not to let his rare start go to waste.

Fuld provided Oakland's only run during a 2-1 loss with his first home run of the season -- a solo homer off Mike Montgomery in the third inning. 

Fuld has gone 20 appearances (11 starts) without a multihit game. He is batting .250 (9 for 36) with a .372 on-base percentage, one home run, three doubles, six RBI, five runs, six walks, six strikeouts and one stolen base in that span.


Diamondbacks catcher Welingon Castillo hitting his stride
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Things are looking up for Diamondbacks catcher Welington Castillo. Not that his season could have reached much greater depths.

Castillo is finally receiving significant playing time with Arizona and has responded. He has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 starts and walked twice in one of the others. The result is an average that has soared from .150 to .213 since June 10 with five doubles and three home runs.

His on-base percentage of .282 is at its highest point since May 7, when he was still playing for the Cubs.


Steve Pearce finally flashing for Orioles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Orioles second baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce has a lot of catching up to do if he even wants to approach his surprising production of a year ago. But he is making up for lost time recently.

Pearce slammed three more singles Sunday with two runs and an RBI. He is batting .444 (8-for-18) over his last five games with three doubles. His .233 average is at its highest point since April 8.


Mets' Lagares heats up to start July after ending June mired in slump
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Mets center fielder Juan Lagares got in on New York's eight-run, 15-hit outburst Sunday against the Dodgers.

Lagares totaled two hits in the 8-0 win, including his fourth triple of the season. He drove in two runs with the two-out triple off Juan Nicasio in the top of the seventh inning.

Lagares has hit safely in three of four games to open July. He is batting .267 (4 for 15) with one double, one triple, three RBI and two runs in that span. Lagares' latest run comes after he finished June in a 2-for-31 slump.


Tigers CF Anthony Gose slams second homer Sunday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) The home run hit by Tigers center fielder Anthony Gose on Sunday certainly fell into the "too-little, too-late" category, but it still came as a pleasant surprise. He only has two on the season.

Gose blasted off in the seventh inning to merely cut the deficit to 9-4. He even got pinch-hit for in his next at-bat and finished 1-for-3. But he does own a respectable slash line on the year of .274/.317/.371.

He has also hit safely in each of his last five starts and owns a .333 average (7-for-21) during that stretch.


Angels 2B Johnny Giavotella begins July with four-game hit streak
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella has opened July with a four-game hit streak, as he went 2 for 5 with two RBI and two runs Sunday against the Rangers.

Giavotella had a sac fly in the second inning and an RBI single in the third. He also had his 13th double Sunday.

Giavotella is batting .368 (7 for 19) with two doubles, four RBI, two runs and two sac flies through four July games.


 
 
 
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